A Texas court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of a libel suit under the Texas Citizen Participation Act today, finding that the plaintiff could not establish the basic elements of his defamation claim.
In October 2012, police officer Dennis Walker filed a defamation suit against Larry Schion, who accused him of theft and using his police cruiser for personal use, among other allegations of misconduct. However, according to Schion’s attorney Michael Fleming, the lawsuit had less to do with defamation and was in fact an attempt to dissuade Schion from speaking out against him.
“The purpose of [the statute] is so that people like Larry don’t have to spend tremendous amounts of money defending themselves over a lawsuit that’s brought solely because they exercised their First Amendment rights,” Fleming said.
The Texas Citizen Participation Act is an anti-SLAPP statute passed in 2011. The acronym “SLAPP” is short for “strategic lawsuits against public participation.” Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have anti-SLAPP statutes to protect citizens from lawsuits intended to silence critics.
Related Reporters Committee resources: